Back in May 2017 I returned to California for a fantastic 10 day 3000 mile trip around north and south California, quite a bit of Arizona, Utah and Nevada too. I’ve been meaning to do a write up, but these things are a big undertaking, and perhaps now, when you are starting to plan the next years adventure is a good time to look back.
In 2015 I did a whirlwind 5 day trip, and had a great adventure. However there is no way to do justice to a place like this in such a short time, so I promised to myself that I would go back. So a couple of years on I saved up and one dark January evening booked a flight to San Fransisco, and dropped an email to Dubbelju motorbikes in San Fransisco, asking them to reserve me their best R1200GS for 10 days in May.
I love having a trip like this lined up to get you through the cold dark winter, and all the fun of planning your route (admittedly not my strong point) and then organising, refining and buying gear for the trip.
When the weather started to warm up I went on a few trips to test out my kit. One memorable weekend in April, I rode up the west coast of Wales, and I have to say, some amazing roads, and most stunning campsites were only 200 miles away from my front door.
This is not California, it is Snowdonia.
But as May came round I was itching to get moving. There is always a cost to trips like this in terms of family, and it isn’t easy to justify time away. But I think these adventures are part of making you who you are, and to sacrifice them all together is to lose something too important. To lessen the injustice, we planned a big adventure round France for the moment schools broke up in July.
When the day came I loaded up the bike and rode to Heathrow and parked up for free just opposite the terminal entrance. I sometimes can’t believe that everyone doesn’t ride a bike. I wandered over, bought coffee and a newspaper and checked in.
It was a fine flight, but I was underwhelmed by Virgin (it was my first time) and it felt a bit gimmicky and worn out. Give me the slightly maternalistic British Airways any time, with comfort food and nice cups of tea.
We were lucky enough to have clear skies for the flight over. Amazing views all the way, over the Lake District, then Iona and Mull on the west coast of Scotland, the fjords of Greenland and then after a seemingly endless frozen wilderness, the Golden Gate itself.
Incidentally I discovered that the Golden Gate isn’t the bridge – it is the strait between San Fransisco and Marin County and the bridge is named after it, and it is responsible for the slightly crazy weather that San Fransisco gets. The coastal range of mountains to the north and south have very few gaps in it, and so the weather rolling in over the thousands of miles of Pacific ocean gets funnelled through the Golden Gate and condenses rapidly into fog, for which the city is famous, and which often obscures the Bridge.
I have no recollection of immigration, which is a good sign – it can’t have been too long, then on to the BART train at the Airport which will take you in to San Fransisco for $10. You always need your first night hotel booked to get through immigration, (it is a good idea not to be trying to find a room when you are jet lagged anyway) and I was booked into the Holiday Inn on Van Ness Avenue. Took the BART to Civic Centre, and then a quick uber using my UK Account, which couldn’t be easier, and checked in. Nice hotel, comfortable and quiet, and reasonable for San Fransisco (which is notoriously pricey) in a central location. It was all you could ask for on a first night when sleep is the priority. It was supposed to have an outdoor pool, which Booking.com failed to tell me was being refurbished (possibly why my room was cheap). But pretty great views from my room east over downtown San Fransisco.
Went out for a long walk to reset my body clock. Walked North all the way to Fishermans walk, then over Nob Hill past the crazy steep Lombard Street, swarming with Tourists, I can’t imagine how annoying it must be to live there. Incidentally, I found out why San Fransisco is so hilly. The Pacific Oceanic plate is being gradually subsumed under the North American plate (which the cause of all the volcanos and the earthquakes). But as it slides under, lots of debris from the surface of the oceanic plate accumulates and piles up along the edge of the continent and that is what the hills of San Fransisco are made of.
Found myself at Union Square and ate at Chipotle which is always a good option for decent quality fast foot, and then starting to fade quite badly having been up for 24 hours now, stumbled back to the Hotel and crashed out.